The small New York City law firm Burns & Harris is once again facing a former client’s legal malpractice claims over the firm’s alleged failure to track down the defendants’ insurer in a personal injury case.
The law firm, which lists nine lawyers on its website and says that it takes medical malpractice, personal injury and police abuse cases, had its earlier victory over former client William McGlynn overturned Wednesday by New York’s Appellate Division, Second Department.
McGlynn was injured in 2005 and retained Burns & Harris about two-and-a-half years later. The firm sued three companies that allegedly bore responsibility for the injuries McGlynn suffered while working on Brooklyn’s Pier 1 and won a default judgment for more than $250,000. But McGlynn sued the law firm in 2016, saying it had done virtually nothing to investigate whether the defendants in that case may have had insurance.
Burns & Harris prevailed below, with Justice Edward Maron ruling that McGlynn’s malpractice case was built on a “speculative and conclusory opinion” from an expert who blamed the law firm and its lawyer Alison Keenan for causing the personal-injury defendants’ insurer to put forward a lack-of-notice defense when McGlynn finally tracked them down.
The appellate panel disagreed. “There are triable issues of fact as to whether the plaintiff could have provided timely notice of the accident after the law firm defendants were retained,” the court concluded.
Seth Harris of Burns & Harris; McGlynn’s lawyer, Richard Coleman of Shapiro & Coleman; and defense lawyer Ronald Weiner of Steinberg & Cavaliere did not respond to requests for comment.